Film4 Summer Screen Somerset House

On Tuesday night we had tickets to the Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House. Summer Screen is something I’ve been wanting to do for ages and this year I finally got my act together and managed to get tickets for one of my boyfriend’s favourite films – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It wasn’t a film I’d seen before (although I am a big fan of The Princess Bride which is also written by William Goldman) so I was excited about seeing something for the first time in a great venue.

Film 4 Summer Screen at Somerset House review

We turned up about 10 minutes before the doors opened at 6.30, I’d read things on the internet advising turning up on time and we got there to discover that queues were already forming.

Before we could enter though, all bags were subject to a security check for contraband. According to the website (for 2013):

“You are welcome to bring a picnic to eat before the film. No glass, including glass bottles, or ceramic crockery is allowed in the courtyard. Alcohol is permitted in plastic containers. Cans are also allowed but are limited to two per person.”

In addition:

“bring your own rugs, blankets and cushions – sorry, no chairs, backrests or portable furniture, including inflatables such as lilos!”

On our way in we saw a girl having her cardboard backrest confiscated by security who seemed to be explaining that it was a hazard which I thought was rather odd given the amunt of trip hazards in the courtyard in the form of picnic baskets and legs. In addition, although glass and ceramics were prohibited, I saw someone slicing into a picnic item with a fairly large knife which I thought was probably more dangerous than a wine bottle. But we got through security and we were in.

Our first job was to find a prime spot, we opted for about halfway back in the central bank, although we got there before the doors opened we were too late to grab a spot right in front of the projection stand (with its added advantage of being a backrest for sitting and leaning against). We settled down on our picnic blanket and dug into our picnic which had hastily been bought from M&S at lunchtime.

The DJ kicked off at 7pm with some fairly mellow music to accompany our munching. I thought that two and a half hours would be too long to wait (before the film started at 9pm) but by the time we’d finished eating, stocked up with wine from the bar and nipped to the toilet we were ready to go.

The lights went down, the music started and the searchlights started wheeling around the space, it felt like an experience, rather than the much less exciting process of putting on a DVD in our lounge (note to self: install searchlights and Dolby Surround Sound in lounge).

Very quickly most people snuggled down with their other halves or their bottle of wine that had been decanted into a water bottle. Note: take lots of pillows (to prop up your head, the rake isn’t massive).

Although it had been a warm day and early evening, the chill did creep in later and the wind picked up, so we were glad we’d brought layers and a sleeping bag.

Film 4 Summer Screen at Somerset House review

We spent a wonderful two hours snuggled up, watching the film and the odd plane fly overhead, we even watched the moon creep slowly up over the roof of Somerset House but all too soon the credits rolled, the audience clapped and everyone packed up to head off into the night.

After this year’s event, we are definitely going to try and get tickets for next year and, of course, hope for good weather (we were very very lucky this year).

A few tips if you’re planning on attending Film4 Summer Screen Somerset House next year:

  • Take layers, a sleeping bag/blankets and pillows – even if it’s a warm day it will get chilly and you will want to get cosy
  • Take plenty to drink – the drinks in the venue aren’t cheap and once admitted there’s no re-entry
  • Get there at least for when the doors open if possible (if you want the very best spot get there super early)
  • Take a picnic or get takeout pizza to eat while waiting for the film to start – we saw no end of people with pizza and despite our M&S feast, we were very jealous
  • Be ready to get cosy with other people – apparently around 2000-2100 people were there the night we went and you do end up picnic blanket to picnic blanket with strangers

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  • ARGH! Meant to do this before I left London as well …. BOO TO ME!!! I think the thing that always put me off actually booking to go was worrying about potential rain!